This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where it’s headed.
The following is from an interview with Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends
**This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
CT: The opportunity to break down convention – and reinvent retail opportunities and profitability in the process. Tech like geolocation, image recognition and augmented reality completely frees the retail experience. Retail no longer needs to be a destination – it can become an engaging, seamless part of our everyday lives.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
CT: Customer expectations have changed hugely over the last few years. Customers expect next-day and same-day delivery, free delivery and super-fast returns through any channel. Customers’ online experiences have also increased their expectations for offline shopping – customers want to see reviews in-store, they want to know what’s in stock before they arrive, they want to be able to check in for a personalised experience, they want to be able to find what they want using images, not words. Retailers cannot underestimate these expectations – even if some seem unreasonable!
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
CT: Ecommerce and convenience were synonymous for a while, but this is one of brick and mortar’s greatest strengths. It makes sense given that – at present – even the best ecom delivery service takes a number of hours or a day to get something into a customer’s hands. Brick and mortar has an upper hand in convenience when it comes to delivery. Where it’s often lacking at the moment is the experience around that, such as knowing what’s in stock, reserving things or delivery from the store.
I think we’ll also see more entertainment-based retail experiences that encourage customers to spend time with brands socially. To really take advantage of that though, stores needs to work on the operational side so those relationships can move into sales seamlessly.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
CT: It’s got to be AI. I think retail has barely scratched the surface when it comes to what this tech can do. It’s going to be a key element of the industry’s future, in everything from personalisation to omnichannel, to stock and logistics. AI is going to help retailers and brands to join up the dots which will, in turn, make for a better, more impactful customer experience.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
CT: The store isn’t going anywhere, but it will continue to change. Retail is going to continue to mix up formats – from small spaces in key hubs to service-driven local stores to experience-heavy brand homes. We’ll also see the definition of a store stretch even further. We’ve seen stores that incorporate playgrounds, gyms, art installations, laundromats, co-working spaces, activism areas, cookery schools, paid Instagram areas and more. This is only going to get more interesting as brands get more creative and expand to include other services.